Afghanistan restricted Pakistan to 103-7 from its 20 overs after posting a decent 125-8 on Thursday. — Photo by AFP

GUANGZHOU: Afghanistan shrugged off their sensational Asian Games cricket triumph over Pakistan, insisting only a gold medal will now be good enough for their long-suffering, war-ravaged country. 

Afghanistan clinched a 22-run semi-final win over their neighbours to set up a Friday gold medal showdown with either Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

“It’s a big win for Afghanistan. Every person at home is watching the match and everybody is happy about this win, so now we must win gold,” said captain Mohammad Nabi.

“Pakistan got off to a great start with their batting but we knew it was not all over and we kept our confidence.”

Vice-captain Karim Sadeq insisted that the whole the country was behind the battling team.

“On TV last night in Afghanistan, they told people to pray that we would win. Tonight they will be celebrating all over the country. It’s a dream for us,” he said.

In the first meeting between the two sides, Afghanistan scored 125-8 in their 20 overs before limiting Pakistan’s flamboyant batsmen to just 103-7.

Afghanistan’s score did not look enough as Pakistan made a lightning reply, racing to 30 off just three overs, but tight bowling and disciplined fielding prompted a middle-order collapse.

Pakistan fast bowler Aisaz Cheema said his teammates were devastated by the loss and hoped their demanding supporters at home would forgive them.

“We are very depressed. We cried at first because we expected to win,” he said.

“Everyone was watching at home. They will not be pleased, but they’ll forgive us in time.”

Pakistan manager Sadique Mohammad insisted the match was there to be won.

“It was very easy, we should have won. But our batsmen were not good, especially in the middle order. They thought they could get the target,” he said.

“But they played too slow and all the catches were taken. Had we got more sixes, we could have won.

“Our plan was to win the toss, put them in and get them out for 100. There was a lot of grass on the pitch and the ball would move around.”

Despite the defeat, Sadique believes Pakistan will be gold medal prospects in Incheon in South Korea when the next Asian Games roll around in 2014.

“This was not the best team from Pakistan. Hopefully we can play in the next Asian Games and send better players.”

Pakistan were unable to send a first-choice squad to Guangzhou with their Test and one-day team facing South Africa in the United Arab Emirates.